'Cigs for Terrorism' Smuggler Gets Two Years In Prison

Last summer, New Times brought you the story of Roman Vidal, a quiet Cutler Bay resident whom authorities linked to a very troubling international conspiracy.

Starting in 2001, the 57-year-old smuggled millions of South American cigarettes through the Port of Miami, hidden beneath floorboards and shipments of yarn on freighters, bound for criminal gangs in Ireland, Britain and Spain.

Vidal's European contacts then resold the cigarettes on the black market, avoiding millions in EU taxes.

The real shocker, according to Vidal's inditement, was the recipient of some of those profits: the Real IRA, a terrorist splinter group in Northern Ireland that murdered two young British soldiers last year.

Vidal appeared in federal court this morning in downtown Miami and sat quietly as U.S. Judge Alan Gold read his sentence: 24 months in federal prison, followed by three years probation and a $1.5 million fine.

Gold's sentence split the difference between prosecutors' and Vidal's defense team's requests. But it didn't take into account the accusations of his gang's ties to terrorists, for one simple reason.

As we wrote last year, it's really damn hard to prove terrorist-financing ties.

Gold, instead, considered Vidal's role as a vital link in the supply chain to the international smugglers and decided a two year setence was fair.

Vidal didn't seem to profit much from the enterprise before ICE agents busted him -- he lived in a modest home in Cutler Bay and prosecutors never found any valuable assets hidden anywhere else. He declared himself indigent for trial and used a public defender.

After the sentence, he walked out of the courtroom with his wife, Delia, and his son, Andres, quietly talking. He declined to talk to New Times about the sentence.

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